Friday, November 30, 2007

Censorship on farm, under power lines

Two dispatches from the Society of Environmental Journalists' Watchdog Tipsheet show how censorship can take different forms -- and that Americans must remain vigilant to protect their rights, First Amendment or beyond.

"Publishing the origin of 4th-of-July hamburgers could land anyone — including newspaper publishers and consumer activists — in jail for up to 10 years if the animal feeding industry succeeds in getting a little-noticed amendment enacted into law," SEJ writes. "Citing the location of a large feedlot would likewise be a crime, even when the smell of the lot offended people a mile away and federal law requires disclosure of its address under the Clean Water Act."

That issue stems from lobbyists such as the Farm Bureau trying to influence the Farm Bill to prevent disclosure of facts related to agribusiness.

"The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and six other journalism groups urged Senators in a Nov. 7, 2007, letter to strike the secrecy language. Joining SEJ were the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the National Press Foundation, and UNITY: Journalists of Color," SEJ reported. "Other journalism groups lobbied behind the scenes for removal of the language.

Elsewhere, a university art professor from Washington was detained by police after she took photographs of power lines, and is suing local officials with help from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"We don't think an art professor should get frisked, handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car for taking photographs on public property in plain sight," ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said. "As an artist and as a teacher, she doesn't want other people who are taking photos of landscapes and other things to be hassled and detained by law enforcement."

For the Associated Press news story on the latter, check out

For the former story on secrecy on the farm, check out